Mixed re­sponse on rates re­view

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Ag Life -

Afarmer leader has ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment in the terms of ref­er­ence set to guide a re­view into Victoria’s mu­nic­i­pal rat­ing sys­tem.

Vic­to­rian Farm­ers Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent David Jochinke, of Murra Warra, said he feared the re­view process would do lit­tle to im­me­di­ately pro­vide respite for farm­ers.

He also added that he be­lieved terms of ref­er­ence based purely on rat­ing fig­ures were too nar­row to solve broader lo­cal govern­ment is­sues.

“One of the big dis­ap­point­ments is that the govern­ment didn’t en­gage us in de­vel­op­ing the terms of ref­er­ence when we were the main group who drove this move,” he said.

“Ad­dress­ing is­sues sur­round­ing how best to share the rates bur­den rep­re­sents a cat­a­lyst to gen­er­at­ing dis­cus­sion sur­round­ing lo­cal govern­ment.

“In re­al­ity the broader pic­ture tells us that dis­cus­sion needs to be around the func­tion of lo­cal govern­ment, the fi­nanc­ing of lo­cal-govern­ment op­er­a­tions and fi­nally the gov­er­nance of lo­cal govern­ment – how it is struc­tured and man­aged based on the ex­pec­ta­tions of ser­vice de­liv­ery and mak­ing sure the checks and bal­ances are in place to en­sure that oc­curs.”

An in­de­pen­dent re­view panel, led by for­mer Royal Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and

City of Mel­bourne chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Kathy Alexander must pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions to Vic­to­rian Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Adem Somyurek by March 2020.

Mr Somyurek out­lined time frames and terms of ref­er­ence for the re­view, de­signed to en­sure lo­cal govern­ment coun­cils were ac­count­able to ratepay­ers, last week.

Mr Somyurek said the re­view was about mak­ing sure Vic­to­rian coun­cils used a rat­ing sys­tem that was ‘fair, eq­ui­table and ef­fec­tive for all Vic­to­ri­ans’.

“The sys­tem we have now is com­plex and in need of re­view – we need a con­tem­po­rary rat­ing sys­tem that gives peo­ple a fair deal,” he said.

“I look for­ward to work­ing with Dr Alexander on this im­por­tant re­view and build­ing on our Fair Go Rates Sys­tem.”

As­sess­ment sur­round­ing the shar­ing of a nec­es­sary-rates bur­den be­tween mu­nic­i­pal sec­tors has long been con­tentious, es­pe­cially in re­gional ar­eas.

Rat­ing sys­tems, pro­cesses and out­comes have led to lengthy, pas­sion­ate and at times in­tense and con­tro­ver­sial de­bate in sev­eral coun­cils, in­clud­ing Ararat and Hor­sham.

The farm­ing sec­tor has been par­tic­u­larly out­spo­ken on is­sues of eq­uity sur­round­ing rates.

Rates cap

Vic­to­rian Na­tion­als leader Peter Walsh de­scribed the re­view as a ‘sham’, ar­gu­ing it would fail to ad­dress the main is­sue face by farm­ers – ‘the un­fair rates cap’.

“La­bor’s so-called Fair Go rates cap caused farm rates in some shires to sky­rocket by nearly 30 per­cent last year,” Mr Walsh said.

“Farm­ers waited months for the govern­ment to get crack­ing with this re­view, and now we learn Premier Daniel An­drews is ex­clud­ing his failed rates cap from the scope of the in­quiry.

“It’s also frus­trat­ing the re­view’s scope ex­cludes look­ing at the ad­e­quacy of the val­u­a­tion sys­tem and that it will ig­nore other sources of lo­cal govern­ment fund­ing such as state and Com­mon­wealth grants.

“La­bor has set up a sham re­view that sim­ply will not de­liver the sys­tem­atic over­haul Vic­to­ri­ans de­serve so rates are fair for ev­ery­one.

“Mr An­drews has also ig­nored calls for an in­terim rates cap to be ap­plied to all rat­ing cat­e­gories while the re­view is con­ducted.

“Farm­ers who got hit with huge in­creases last year are rightly very nervous about the next rates as­sess­ments which will be hit­ting mail boxes soon.”

The re­view panel will con­sider in its de­lib­er­a­tions – • Lo­cal govern­ment charges • Rat­ing ex­emp­tions and con­ces­sions and their ap­pli­ca­tion to var­i­ous classes of land, in­clud­ing farm land. • The au­ton­omy of lo­cal govern­ments to ap­ply a rat­ing sys­tem that takes into ac­count ‘lo­cal’ fac­tors • Ex­emp­tions and dis­counts for lo­cal govern­ment rates the im­pact any rec­om­mended changes would have on coun­cils, ratepay­ers and res­i­dents.

The State Govern­ment in­tro­duced a Fair Go Rates Sys­tem in 2015 to stop a decade of av­er­age an­nual 6 per­cent in­creases. This sys­tem will re­main in place.

Vic­to­ri­ans will be able ex­press views to the panel and par­tic­i­pate in the re­view process. rates and

David Jochinke

Adem Somyurek

Peter Walsh

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